Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Power Nelson in "Project: Radium!" from Prize Comics #3, 1940

Life is, indeed, like a book. As one chapter ends, a new one begins. Themes mesh and meld and blur together, and only in retrospect can we look up from the murk of our liveaday lives and see these transitions with any clarity.

Hurrah! I am "back on my own true feet" again! Traces of pain still plague the gouted foot. But the "digital phase compressor" was removed today. Dr. Doynter gruffly approved of my foot's condition.

He did, however, issue me a bit of a dressing-down. It stuck to my memory, and, thus, I repeat it here:

"Go on. Return to your desserts and buttery toast. Guzzle your half-and-half. Eat slices of moist cake and pie. See if I care. But, mark my words, Mr. Moray, you are lining your coffin with a shroud of saturated fats and sweets! If your life is at all precious to you, attempt to eat roughage. Try to eat the occasional vegetable. I can't do it for you. I wish I could. I... wish... I... could..."

With those words, he patted me on the right knee, sighed, and left the examination room without his eyes meeting mine.

I sat in that claustrophobic room for two hours--literally afraid to move. Dr. Doynter's words haunted me. Was I, indeed, killing myself with kindness? Was each dessert spoon, in reality, a saber of death for me?

The gloom of autumn had already darkened the afternoon sky as I hobbled out to my "loaner" car, a "green-friendly" vehicle called, I believe, the Priapus. It is a metallic bug of a car. It runs, in part, on electricity! Will wonders ne'er cease?

To my delight, the local "oldies" station chose that moment to play a "three-fer" of Peter and Gordon--easily my favorite of the "British Invaders" of the mid-1960s. Oh, how I idolized those harmonizing lads in those days! I was something of a dead-ringer for "Peter"--albeit a bit more heavy-set.

In fact, I formed a duet with a high-school friend, Russ "Rusty" Gortner. "Mason and Rusty" never got beyond a couple of high-school talent contests, but we enjoyed our attempts to re-create the delightful sounds of our English idols.

A wave of melancholy crossed my soul as I drove home. A tear rolled down my cheek whilst the sweet strains of "Nobody I Know" played over the radio. Perhaps I had mortality on my mind. The doctor's words stuck with me. As well, I realized I hadn't seen "Rusty" in over 30 years. For all I know, he could be dead and buried.

How many friends, teachers, celebrities have I outlived? And who amongst those demogratical groups shall outlive me?

To cheer myself, I quickly thought of the names of 10 pioneer panelologists. Last on the list was Richard Sprang. I hadn't thought of Mr. Sprang in years. He is best-known for his popular berth on the "Batman" feature of the 1950s.

His work was quite slick and sleek by that time--at the expense of much of his artistic and panelological "soul." I thought back to his earliest work in the comic-magazine medium. Today's remarkable tale came immediately to mind.

The trouble was, my early issues of Prize Comics are in box W-21. To get to these panelological gems would mean an hour of strenuous lifting, moving, sorting and yet more lifting.

I prefer that my trips to "The Pantheon" be short and sweet. Should I linger too long in my backyard, I risk attracting the attention of Burt Liffler, my well-meaning next-door neighbor.

Mr. Liffler is the coach of a local middle-school basketball team. He lives alone, and is, I assume, a widower. Perhaps he has never married! Whatever the case, he is desperately in search of human contact and attention.

Once I am seen, I can rarely escape without 90 minutes of small-talk. The poor man! So alone in this world! He wears shorts every day of the year, and tends to overdo his cologne. I can smell Burt Liffler before I see him.

This is, sometimes, a boon. If I am able to catch the scent of his cologne in time, I can quickly slide shut the doors of The Pantheon, with myself inside the structure.

When this happens, I am in for a long wait. Mr. Liffler is content to spend a solid hour calling out my name: "Mason? Are you there? Mason? Is that you?" Over and over and over again! It is exhausting.

As well, Mr. Liffler typically wears his coach's whistle at all times. Perhaps out of instinct, or habit, he will punctuate his pathetic calls with pert bursts from that whistle.

I feel like a heel for avoiding Mr. Liffler. But he is in too much need. I don't mind a chat of, say, 15 minutes' duration with him. But he fails to understand that I might "have a life" and, thusly, need to go back into my house.

This very scenario played out this evening. I simply had to lay my hands on the early Prizes, Burt Liffler be damned!

I must move four layers of archival boxes, then another three, to obtain access to box W-21. It is nigh impossible to achieve this goal without a great deal of thumping and bumping. The boxes' pounding against the metallic walls of "The Pantheon" are a clarion call to the lonely soul of Mr. (or, should I say, Mister?) Liffler.

Before I could prepare myself, I heard that loathsome whistle blow. "Mason?" Then a silence. "Is that you out here in the dark?"

I sighed and steeled myself for the worst: "Yes, Mister Liffler, it is I."

"Oh, call me Burt. We're neighbors."

"Burt. Yes, I am here."

Three-quarters of an hour later, having gone through such topics as the price of oranges, sock repair, poor cable reception, a sale on cement and pottery at a local hardware store, a knee injury of his star player, and its comparisons to my recent attack of gout, his disappointment in a new brand of soda pop, the death of a beloved middle-school janitor and something about the phenomenon of "Howard, the Combined Kitten" (the latter which he found on the Internet), his telephone rang.

"Oh, dear, I'm expecting this call. I've got to go." And off went lonesome Mister Liffler.

I could scarcely believe my luck, nor properly count my blessings. I had been spared a good hour of additional small-talk!

My main difficulty in our "friendship" is that I am seldom allowed more than two syllables of response. Liffler clearly enjoys the gift of speech. As "groucho" of the Marx Brothers might have quipped, he was vaccinated with a radio!

I held in my hands the third issue of Prize. It is my profound pleasure to share this early gem by Richard Sprang with you today. It's quite a hair-raising tale, so hold onto your seats and hats!

The majesty of "Power Nelson" never seemed brighter than in this superlative story. In its 15 breathless pages, Richard Sprang crafted a panelological pleasure of epic scale.

I hope you don't mind if I cut short my post-story analysis today. I have one more item of concern. I haven't discussed it with anyone else--yet. I open my heart to you, my esteemed readers.

Should I seek "help" for my wife, Dorrie? She is, of late, given to wandering around the kitchen, day and night, muttering to herself as she consults cook-books and pretends to prepare her justly famous treats and goodies.

These episodes occur usually after I have dozed off. I am a light sleeper, and the clanks and creaks of her nocturnal kitchen activity easily rouse me.

More than once, I have stumbled down the hallway and peered into the kitchen, to see my wife measuring imaginary draughts of flour, sugar and salt; stirring pretend batches of frosting and batter; bringing unseen pots of water to an alleged boil.

During daylight hours, Dorrie is her old self. She has recovered, it would seem, from the embarrassment of her attempted "trial seperation." Is this night-time secret behavior something worthy of my concern? Or is she just "bowling off steam" while she awaits my full return to health?

Again, I am sorry to cut short my comments on today's panelological presentation. I feel that each of you is my friend, though we have not met in person. I solicit your opinion: what am I to do?

Awaiting your counsel, I remain your friend,

Mason Moray


  1. Mason you truly are the King of Panelology! This story with Power Nelson was an absolute "hoot." I indeee loved Sprang's simple, clean, and bold style. I loved the way he drew the first group of aliens (but had to laugh at the way their heads looked--like cheap costuming in a movie/human faces visible behind "alien" head-pieces :) )

    The design of the space ship was also cool, but what was the fuel that propelled it through outerspace: coal?? Thanks for sharing the contents of Box W-21. And I hope your health stabalizes and then improves.

  2. Dear Mason, I am no psychologist, but it seems to me that perhaps Dorrie needs an outlet for her culinary pursuits. Perhaps you could invite your neighbor, or a friend with a hearty stomach to dinner and let Dorrie go to town in the kitchen. Or perhaps Dorrie could teach a cooking class. I am not sure how successful that would be. In some ways it seems as if her cooking is as outmoded and esoteric as your taste in comics! Ask yourself what Power Nelson would do, and I'm sure the answer will come to you!